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Jan Gehl: Half of Manhattan Trips Could be Done by Bike

If you haven't heard it already, WNYC's Arun Venugopal has an outstanding piece on New York City's rapidly changing transportation policies regarding bicycling. We hear from T.A.'s Noah Budnick, Copenhagen's Jan Gehl, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, NYPD Chief Ray Kelly, Judy Ross of Times Up, and a moron in a huge SUV. Click here or press the play button below:


REPORTER: Jan Gehl is an urban designer, also from Copenhagen, who advises the city's Department of Transportation. Like his friend and mentor, the late Jane Jacobs, Gehl speaks of the 'humanization' of the city's streets, which he thinks have become 'infested' by cars. But Gehl thinks Manhattan, given its density and flatness, is perfectly positioned for a wide-scale conversion.

GEHL: It would be a piece of cake to have a really high class bicycle system which could take care of half of the commuting in Manhattan.

REPORTER: Gehl thinks that the political pressures arising from gas prices and the green movement will force the city to adopt bicycling fast. He says real change may be visible here within 5 years, and that the city could be profoundly altered in about 10 years. As more people take to riding bikes, it becomes safer, which in turn encourages more people to ride. Gehl sees major economic benefits as well, as people tend to linger more - in public plazas, or stores or sidewalk cafes - when air and noise pollution go down.

GEHL: In Europe increasingly we are trying to make the cities so that they are wonderful places, where you like to go out and sit and have meals and watch your fellow citizens, talk with them in spaces which are not completely filled with noise. Something about being a public citizens who enjoys his city.

... 

As we ride along 8th avenue, we're forced into the car lane because of all the double-parking law-breakers.

At one point, a man in a huge SUV pulls up next to us and honks his horn. The driver rolls down his window, and he shouts, 'There's only one bike lane, bro!'

Noah ignores him, then watches as the guy runs a red light. And he's at peace.

BUDNICK: the next thing, he's stuck in gridlock, and you're 10 blocks ahead of him five minutes later. Brings a smile.

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